I recently binge-watched Netflix’s Squid Game. Like many others, I was initially pulled in by the impressive production value and was already a fan of somewhat similar shows, like Alice in Borderland. However, the latter half of the show was just abysmal, and I’ll break down the why into 5 main points (roughly chronologically ordered).
5. THE WAY THEY DID MY BOI ALI DIRTY
I’m not gonna lie, I was so so very happy to see some Pakistani representation in this show. I RARELY see K-dramas with any South Asians or South-East Asians, and I think he was the first character I’ve ever seen representing “foreign workers” looking for a better future in Korea. Unfortunately, as soon as I saw him, I also knew that eventually, he was gonna die tragically, because horror movie logic usually forbids the brown guy from surviving (yes, I’m aware this is not a horror movie, but the precedent does influence other media), and because characters I like ALWAYS DIE.
So, I was not surprised when his time came. HOWEVER, the way they went about it was just so annoyingly sloppy. How do you make a whole big deal about wanting to give everyone an equal opportunity one second, and the next you allow Sangwoo to break the rules and obtain the marbles in a way outside of playing a game? Essentially, he just stole them, even if it was in a non-violent way. It should not be considered as fulfilling the “game” requirement. I was really hoping they would kill Sangwoo for cheating, setting up an interesting new layer to the games, but no.
Then I hoped that maybe the staffer who “shot” Ali was our trusty Police friend Junho, thus only pretending to shoot him and saving him to become his ally, but again, no.
4. The way they really just picked white men off the street to “act”
Before y’all come at me, YES, I know this is an issue in MANY Asian dramas. Whenever someone is needed to play an old rich white man, they’d literally just hire any mediocre white guy available, seemingly regardless of acting experience (or lack thereof).
But holy moly, was it jarring to suddenly have such bad actors and awkward dialogue on a show that otherwise had an amazing cast full of many well-known actors who were REALLY selling their part. I mean, this show had enough of a budget that they had freaking GONG YOO as a relatively irrelevant side character, I KNOW they could’ve done better on casting/writing the VIPs.
3. Inho’s lack of backstory
I think by episode 4 or so, I had said something along the lines of “Wouldn’t it be wild if Inho was the Front Man?”. Admittedly, that was mainly because he did give me Darth Vader vibes, so it just kind of made sense. Still, when the reveal came it felt very unsatisfactory because how he ended up in his current position was never explained.
Sure, I can make an educated guess that similarly to Gihun, the other winners of the game returned to their messy lives realizing that the money not only wouldn’t solve all their problems, but they also had let their loved ones down by disappearing. They now had tons of money that felt meaningless against all the death and suffering caused to receive it.
However, it would have been so much more rewarding to find out why Inho accepted the Front Man position, and how he went from the type of guy who would give his kidney for his brother, to one who just shoots him with barely any hesitation.
2. The way Gihun “helped” Saebyeok’s brother was lazy af and so were the circumstances of Saebyeok’s death
Ok, first of all, I was already upset that Saebyeok had to get injured by that dumb glass shard, because again, getting injured by the game masters after winning the game, even if by accident, seems to defeat the purpose of “fairness”, but I guess it’s her fault for trying to hide it. I also understand that maybe we didn’t see ALL of the conversation that Saebyeok and Gihun had on the night before the finale, but it seemed to be all of it. So, assuming these words were the only ones they exchanged, why did Gihun never ask for her brother’s name or the home’s address, and yet he knew where to find him? Also, after Saebyeok told Gihun not to kill Sangwoo, why didn’t he still just steal the damn knife, just in case? Clearly, he knew Sangwoo couldn’t be trusted for shit.
Then, to keep his “promise” of taking care of Saebyeok’s brother, Gihun picks the little boy up and…. Leaves him with Sangwoo’s old mother, along with a suitcase of cash. Wow. Cause she sure did a great job as a mother last time, and I’m sure the boy will not be even more traumatized when this lady passes away fairly soon, because she’s already what, 80-something? You’re a billionaire now, Gihun, you could’ve at least hired someone to find out if Saebyeok’s mother is still alive (even if I have very little hope for that one).
1. What the hell is the message?
I think the most frustrating part of this show is the fact that it COULD’VE been a vehicle for so many profound takeaways and criticisms towards society, but it sort of just ended up being a wishy-washy attempt of portraying the absurdly rich as equally miserable as the poor and disenfranchised. I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it.
It would have been a lot more meaningful, I think, had the games truly centered on a sense of “fairness” that is unavailable in the outside world, so that you’d be left with the grueling realization that maybe being in the games was truly less cruel than being in regular society. Or maybe it would have been interesting to see Gihun getting addicted to the meaning that the games provided, and becoming the next Frontman, or taking a job at the island, alluding to all the staff being past “winners”. But no, nothing. Such a boring resolution, if you can call it that.
Anyways, did you watch Squid Game? If not, why did you torture yourself by reading this? And if you did watch it, what are your thoughts? Do you completely disagree with what I wrote, perhaps? Discuss in the comments below!
This was contributed by Hallyuhoe